Humans, especially we older ones, are obsessed with good health and longevity, and we are willing to pay for it. As a nation, Americans spend 17% of their incomes on health care, and that share has generally been rising above and beyond what one would expect based on aging of the population alone. In an era when the longevity gap between rich and poor may be widening, we are keenly interested in understanding and preventing health inequalities by improving the health of the disadvantaged. But what external elements and human behaviors produce good health? What kinds of influences reduce health? Is there a difference between activities that we observe healthy people engaging in and activities that actually improve health? The gold standard for disentangling cause and effect in medicine is the randomized controlled trial. But we suspect that many social and behavioral phenomena are important for population health but are never administered in specific dosages to randomly selected treatment and control groups. In this first year connector course, we will examine and discuss measures of human health and longevity alongside arrays of measurable influences on health, identifying the key questions traditionally addressed in health sciences and exploring the current frontier. We will develop broad knowledge of the metrics, methods, and challenges, and we will apply them toward understanding of current issues in health policy.
We will discuss measures and topics in health economics and policy, and we will develop some basic analytical techniques that are useful in understanding key questions. As part of Berkeley's Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative (USLI), the Economics Department has developed learning goals for the Economics major: https://www.econ.berkeley.edu/undergrad/home/learning-goals
Although not an economics course, this course seeks to achieve the following learning goals:
CT1. Apply economic analysis to evaluate everyday problems
QT1. Understand how to use empirical evidence to evaluate an economic argument
QT2. Interpret statistical results
QT4. Obtain and/or collect relevant data using specific qualitative and/or quantitative research methods
CS1. Communicate effectively in written, spoken, and graphical form about specific economic issues
CS2. Formulate a well-organized written argument supported by evidence
LL2. Know how to locate and use primary data sources
Like the Foundations of Data Science course, this course is intended for first-year students and has no prerequisites other than prior or concurrent enrollment in CS/INFO/STAT c8. Students should have a basic knowledge of algebra for quantitative courses at UC Berkeley. c8 should prepare students sufficiently for the breadth of analytical, statistical and computational work in this course.